Whether you are planning on relocating, setting off on holiday or just passing through, travelling to Spain with your pet can be broken down into three main steps:
1. Consulting with your vet
2. Following up with the necessary appointments
3. Organising the travel
Article by Sophie Gatward-Wicks
Your vet will be responsible for administering all the necessary medications and supplying the paperwork required prior to travelling, so it’s important to contact them as early as possible. Realistically, there is no such thing as notifying them ‘too far’ in advance as plans could be entirely ruined if there is not adequate time allowed for the procurement of the necessary documents. Typically, this process is initiated a couple of months in advance, so starting the enquiries and getting those appointments booked in early will help keep the process as stress-free as possible.
If you are travelling with a dog, cat or ferret, then one of the documents you are going to need is a European pet passport, if your pet doesn’t already have one. This document is essential for any travel within EU countries, and will contain most importantly, the microchip (or tattoo code), and rabies vaccination record. For anyone with young fur-babies, bear in mind they must be at least four months old to be allowed to enter Spain. This is because dogs, cats and ferrets can only be administered the rabies vaccination once they reach 3 months (12 weeks) of age, and after this vaccination is given, you need to wait an additional 21 days before you can enter Spain.
A pet passport can be issued for your dog, cat or ferret from any authorised vet and remains valid as long as your pet’s rabies vaccinations are in date. However, if you’re travelling from the UK, and have a pet passport that was issued in GB after 1 January 2021, this will no longer be valid, and you will need to obtain an Animal Health Certificate (AHC).
If your pet is not a furry four-legged friend that falls under those categories, and is of the more feathered, scaly, or tiny variety such as birds, reptiles, ornamental aquatic animals, rabbits or rodents, then you will not need a pet passport.
Not all advice and requirements will be the same for every pet, and can vary depending on the size, age, health, and species of pet you are travelling with, factors also include the country of origin and the reason for travel. At all costs you will want to prevent a situation of non-compliance, which could result in the pet being detained in a quarantine facility, returned to the country of origin, and in extreme cases even euthanized at the owner’s expense.
Another consideration is pet insurance. If your pet is already insured, check that your policy covers travel within the EU. Most pet insurance providers already have ‘travelling abroad’ included in their cover, however, not all packages come with this as standard. If travelling abroad is not covered, insurers will give you the option to add an extension package to your existing policy that best suits your travel plans, though if in doubt, this is something that your vet can advise you on. If you happen to be travelling from a non-EU country, you will need to enter Spain via one of the Travellers’ Points of Entry (PEV) where the Guardia Civil will carry out identity checks on your pet.
Once you’ve consulted with your vet and have a good idea of what you need to do within the given timeframes, you can now move on to the next step of planning the travel route. If travelling via plane, boat or train, you should contact the travel company to ask about their current regulations and guidelines that may include the size of the pet carrier needed, and any other breed-specific requirements such as a muzzle for certain sizes and types of dogs. In some cases, airlines may not accept certain pedigrees of dogs with known health concerns, and will advise you to book specialist transport. Travel by car is much simpler, (and arguably more fun), and if you’re coming over from the UK, driving via the Eurotunnel is a popular choice, as it’s often the cheapest way, beating ferry or plane prices, and makes for a unique travel experience.
If you are choosing to drive, but have experienced problematic car journeys with your pet in the past, or feel that your pet is just too nervous to endure a lengthy road trip, this is a good opportunity to discuss options with your vet such as sedatives or herbal alternatives to help with the pet’s anxiety levels, which could also include any motion sickness inhibitors. Having the pet’s bed, favourite toy and a familiar blanket in the back seat can help keep your pet comforted, encouraging them to feel relaxed. It is important to ensure that they are either wearing a safety harness connected to the seat belt buckle, or secured in their designated pet carrier whenever the car is in motion. Stopping frequently to let your pet out to sniff around, stretch their legs, relieve themselves and keep hydrated is part of the fun, and it’s good for both of you!
Fortunately, there is no lack of service stations along the main motorways that lead from Calais in France to Spain, though keep in mind that the vast majority of service stations are not pet-friendly, so this is something to plan ahead for if you plan on travelling alone. It is illegal in most countries to leave your dog unattended, and can be very dangerous on a warm day. The ideal way to travel with your pet when undergoing this length of a journey is to bring along at least one other person. This ensures your pet will always be safe, and allows you to take turns staying with the pet whilst the other buys the snacks, uses the toilets and pays for the fuel at their own leisurely pace. Splitting the costs is a bonus, and dividing the driving time equally can shave chunks of time off your ETA too.
Whether you decide to take a nap in your car at a rest stop, or book into a roadside hotel, there are plenty of options for pet-friendly stays along the way. Bordeaux, South of France is a popular choice to park up for the night before crossing the border into Spain, with a selection of apart-hotels and budget hotels near eateries and service stations. You will find a good night’s sleep in a comfortable bed where you can lay fully horizontal, paired with a much needed shower makes all the difference, particularly if the last leg of your trip requires you to drive the full length of the Spanish landscape into the southern regions the following day.
However you choose to get your pet into Spain, remember that the journey is part of the joy of having a pet and experiencing the world with them. Ensuring that they are happy, healthy and exactly where they want to be – which is wherever you are. Happy travels!